SubjectsSubjects(version: 861)
Course, academic year 2019/2020
Anglo-Saxons and Vikings - Language Contact and Grammatical Change - AAA500176
Title: Anglo-Saxons and Vikings - Language Contact and Grammatical Change
Guaranteed by: Department of the English Language and ELT Methodology (21-UAJD)
Faculty: Faculty of Arts
Actual: from 2019
Semester: summer
Points: 0
E-Credits: 5
Examination process: summer s.:
Hours per week, examination: summer s.:0/2 C [hours/week]
Capacity: unknown / unknown (unknown)
Min. number of students: unlimited
State of the course: taught
Language: English
Teaching methods: full-time
Additional information:
Note: course can be enrolled in outside the study plan
enabled for web enrollment
Last update: Bc. Andrea Mudrová (09.01.2020)
In terms of grammar, English is an untypical Germanic language. This is largely because of many grammatical changes that can be observed by comparing documents from the Old English period to ones from the Middle English period.

Generally speaking, a language changes essentially due developments in one or more of these three dimensions:
a) aspects of language-as-a-system (language form, ‘langue’), describable in terms of e.g. phonology, morphology, or syntax,
b) aspects of language-as-a-process (language use, ‘parole’), describable in terms of e.g. cognition, categorisation, language processing, semantics, or pragmatics, and
c) aspects of interaction between different languages, i.e. language contact.
On the basis of chronicle material dating from ca 900 till ca 1160 CE we will retrace one aspect of grammatical change – the development of gender – from the elaborate system found in Old English to the very simple he/she/it-alternation in use from (late) Middle English onwards until today: Where, when, how, and why did this change occur?
In addition to language-formal and semantico-cognitive factors, we will also look into the role of language contact in this development, in particular the contact between Anglo-Saxons (who spoke Old English) and Vikings (who spoke Old Norse). Numerous lines of interdisciplinary evidence indicate a strong Viking presence in England from the late ninth till the late twelfth century, but did this Viking presence leave a mark on English grammar?
Further, we will investigate the relation between language variation at a point in time and language change over time: if the two are related and work on similar principles, then models describing variation should be able to predict change and vice versa. This we will test by applying models of synchronic variation to this development.

room P001:
10.2. 15:50-19:10
11.2. 9:10-12:30
12.2. 9:10-12:30
13.2. 9:10-12:30 (if needed also 14:10-17:30)
14.2. 9:10-12:30
Course completion requirements
Last update: PhDr. Gabriela Brůhová, Ph.D. (05.01.2020)

Method and credit requirements:

The course is divisible into three parts:
1) Close study of the course material (ca 400 pages, see below), pro-actively consulting additional sources where necessary and/or germane. It is highly recommended to form reading groups. This part must be completed a week before the classes commence.
2) Active participation in the accompanying online forums: participants may post as often as they like, but must post at least once per thread. The posts must be on topic, but are otherwise free: asking and answering of questions is as welcome as providing (links to) additional material, critically reflecting arguments, methods, and analyses offered in the text, offering comparison to other instances of grammatical change in English and/or other languages, etc. Please note that the forums work on the basis of the ‘Fridge Principle’: the more you put into it, the more you can take out of it. This part must also be completed a week before the classes commence.
3) Active participation in class. This means participants volunteer their ideas, insights, doubts, problems and opinions freely and discuss their and the others’ contributions critically and constructively. Please note that the classes work on the basis of the ‘Potted Plant Principle’: a potted plant is present and looks pleasant, but earns no credit. Participants doing likewise hence likewise obtain no credit.


Last update: Bc. Andrea Mudrová (09.01.2020)

Dolberg, Florian. 2019. Agreement in Language Contact - Gender development in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. (SLCS 208). Amsterdam & New York: John Benjamins.


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